Police ‘Customer’ Training – How to Avoid a Disaster
I don’t often start controversially… but, there are a lot of reasons why in-house police training on customer service often fails to deliver the desired changes in thinking and behaviour.
Training often only serves to reinforce some officers’ views that this topic is a waste of time and has little relevance to the job of policing.
We could discuss these reasons in great depth over several blogs, instead in this blog we are going to focus on the main culprits.
- They are well equipped to deliver knowledge and field training but often lack the expertise and psychological depth required for training in customer engagement
- The decision makers have reached their rank without experiencing this type of training themselves and assume that employees should just automatically be good at these skills. This affects their decision making, often choosing an inadequate solution.
Culture and Climate
- The remnants of a command and control leadership style still reverberate and so police officers and employees tend to nod on the outside to their leaders while resisting their ideas on the inside, including some types of training
- While accomplished in providing knowledge based training, in-house teams tend to deliver customer training in a didactic fashion, or resort to this when they meet resistance, and by doing so they weaken the learning
- Because there is a lack of facilitation (skills and mind-set) to deliver customer training in an effective style, learners tend to reject the training offered and the organisation yields a poor return on investment and often increases cynicism
- Having worked with nearly a quarter of the UK police service, it is evident that approximately 70% of officers attending customer training walk through the door on day one, displaying some type of resistant or closed behaviour. Unfortunately, many police trainers simply don’t know how to turn this around.
What are the antidotes?
Being an external consultant, it’s easy to believe that I would promote the use of external learning providers. Something which I don’t entirely believe in and to make customer training work best, in fact, is that you need a blend of external expertise and internal insight.
Here are the four requirements in-house teams need to learn from the external supplier
1. How to flex away from a cultural police mindset that negatively impacts upon customer service training. This includes how not to get caught in the trap of cynicism that learners often bring to the environment.
2. How to change the language they use within the training room so they can turn around the 70% resistant learners.
3. How to infuse the learning with a range of positive emotions so that learners connect to the material, which increases their buy-in and learning retention. These are different to the typical ones often used by in-house trainers that tend to use, pacifying and ‘if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry’ emotions. They often resort to tactics such as ‘if you play ball with me I’ll let you go early’! This instantly diminishes the learning.
4. How to understand the psychology that underpins the learning content and walk the talk of it. Here they learn, amongst other things, the psychological flexibility to deliver this material with water tight credibility.
What experience has shown, is that we have perfected a model in which we work with police trainers and provide them with the insights, mind-set changes and the psychological expertise. They too can deliver this learning to the highest standard providing them with the tools to change the hearts and minds of even the most resistant learners.
Interestingly, some of the best people we have worked with don’t always come from a training background. In every force in which we have transferred these skills, there are always one or two very experienced police trainers who struggle to make the grade in our model. They are often just too set in their ways, meaning their psychological inflexibility is a barrier and they find it difficult to get out of old habits that just don’t work when developing the essential learning in this field.
As you may be aware, our customer communication and service training is the first and only programme of its kind to be independently assessed, verified and proven to positively change police officer behaviour and attitude. The College of Policing recently published its study on our work with GMP and how this learning programme is transforming how police officers engage with the public and the victims of crime.
The trained officers in general showed a distinctly different approach to interactions with the public and held more positive views about delivering a quality service, showed greater awareness of the need to listen, recognising the value of building empathy and rapport with victims, and reported making decisions that involved the victim in the process.
Essential ingredients that directly affect the relationship between the police and the communities they serve and protect, and whether the police are perceived as being fair and legitimate in how they engage with the public.
These are real drivers of truly effective communication and customer service training.
As with other forces, we have helped GMP to become self sufficient in these trainer skills, equipping their in-house team because they realised the difference our expertise can bring to their return on investment.
This also means we aren’t in their organisation too long and they are quickly equipped to deliver highly engaging training to a standard that works. The investment required to do this is buttons per head and when compared to the vast sums of money wasted on ineffective training programmes by some police forces who have failed. This may be because they took an inappropriate in-house route or didn’t support how their trainers would actually deliver this new style of learning.
And as many of you know, you only get one chance in a police force to deliver great customer training, because if you muck it up, the cynics and the 70% resistant rejoice behind the nodding faces they show their leaders.
Glenn is the co-founder and inspirational learning and performance director of Future Vision. He is a trainer, coach, conference speaker and passionate advocate of developing learning that makes a tangible difference to your business, its people and customers.